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CYNIC

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • United States


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Cynic biography
CYNIC was formed in November, 1987 by guitarist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert. To finish up the lineup, Mark Van Erp (later of MONSTROCITY) was added on bass and a friend named Jack Kelly was added on vocals thus making CYNIC a four-piece. This early incarnation of CYNIC was focused on making only brutal death metal with primary influence taken from bands such as VENOM, POSSESSED, KREATOR and DESTRUCTION. It is this lineup that would later be featured on the release of their first, self-titled demo in 1988.

After Jack left in 1988, Paul took over vocal duties, Jason Gobel was added on guitar and and in 1989, they cut their second demo, entitled "Reflections Of A Dying World", consisting of four songs. All of the songs on this demo were of the speed metal/thrash genre, with even some punk elements incorporated within. This lineup soon began touring the south Florida area and bootlegs exist of them as far back as May of 1988. Soon after, Mark left the band, Tony Choy was added on bass and in 1990, CYNIC released their third demo (also self-titled). This helped to gain them a large following throughout southern and central Florida, as well as their constant touring and cameo appearances in the south Florida area. This new lineup would remain intact until at least 1991.

At this time, the bands' influences were already starting to change. While they were still listening to contemporaries like ATHEIST, and were still inspired by seeing how "sick" some bands would get to express themselves, their technical, musical and creative abilities were growing, and consequently, they began listening to more technical forms of music. Their primary influences soon included jazz and fusion, such as Chick Corea and Allan Holdsworth, but also bands such as WATCHTOWER and Frank ZAPPA. This change in technical abilities had already made its way into their songs as the band took a great leap forward in musicianship for their second and third demos.

By the early part of 1991, CYNIC had evolved into a progressive speed/death metal type band, although the band themselves didn't really consider themselves to be death metal. The music had the technicality of progressive speed metal, with the brutality and vocal qualities of death metal. They cut a fourth and final demo in 1991 (financed by RoadRunner Records) consisting of three tracks. Two of these tracks would, in a drastically different form, make it onto their debut album. In April of 1991, Paul and...
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Kindly Bent to Free UsKindly Bent to Free Us
Season of Mist 2014
Audio CD$7.48
$8.06 (used)
FocusFocus
Remastered · Extra tracks
Roadrunner Records 2004
Audio CD$8.49
$5.20 (used)
Traced in AirTraced in Air
Limited Edition
Season of Mist 2009
Audio CD$7.17
$5.24 (used)
Carbon Based AnatomyCarbon Based Anatomy
Season of Mist 2011
Audio CD$5.95
$5.00 (used)
Re-TracedRe-Traced
Season of Mist 2010
Audio CD$2.11
$2.10 (used)
Portal TapesPortal Tapes
SEASON MIST AMERICA 2012
Audio CD$13.99
$13.98 (used)
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CYNIC shows & tickets


  • Cynic Japan Tour 2015 on 4 Sep 2015
  • Cynic Japan Tour 2015 on 5 Sep 2015
  • Cynic Japan Tour 2015 on 6 Sep 2015
  • Euroblast Festival 11 on 1 Oct 2015
  • Cynic + Tides From Nebula + Onward With Love at Magnet Club, Berlin on 1 Oct 2015
  • Cynic + Tides From Nebula + Onward With Love at VoxHall, Århus C on 2 Oct 2015
  • Cynic + Tides From Nebula + Onward With Love at Poppodium Volt, Sittard on 4 Oct 2015
  • Cynic + Tides From Nebula + Onward With Love at The Underworld, Camden on 5 Oct 2015
  • Cynic + Tides From Nebula + Onward With Love at La Maroquinerie, Paris on 6 Oct 2015
  • Cynic + Tides From Nebula + Onward With Love at Circolo Colony, Brescia on 7 Oct 2015
  • Cynic + Tides From Nebula + Onward With Love at Channel Zero, Ljubljana on 8 Oct 2015
  • Cynic + Tides From Nebula + Onward With Love at Blue Hell & Red Hell, Budapest on 9 Oct 2015
  • KINDLY BENT TO FREE EUROPE TOUR 2015 on 9 Oct 2015
  • Cynic + Tides From Nebula + Onward With Love at Backstage, Munich on 10 Oct 2015
  • Cynic + Onward With Love at ??? ????????, ?????-????????? on 12 Oct 2015
  • Cynic + Tides From Nebula + Onward With Love at Garaj Istanbul, Istanbul on 12 Oct 2015
  • Cynic + Onward With Love at Volta Club, Moscow on 13 Oct 2015

CYNIC discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

CYNIC top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.22 | 433 ratings
Focus
1993
4.13 | 431 ratings
Traced In Air
2008
3.66 | 136 ratings
Kindly Bent To Free Us
2014

CYNIC Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CYNIC Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

CYNIC Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CYNIC Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.08 | 12 ratings
'88 Demo
1988
1.78 | 11 ratings
Reflections of a Dying World
1989
2.39 | 9 ratings
'90 Demo
1990
3.01 | 10 ratings
Demo 1991
1991
3.14 | 9 ratings
Promo 08
2008
3.88 | 74 ratings
Re-traced
2010
3.99 | 99 ratings
Carbon-Based Anatomy
2011
3.61 | 44 ratings
The Portal Tapes
2012

CYNIC Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Kindly Bent To Free Us by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.66 | 136 ratings

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Kindly Bent To Free Us
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Necrotica

2 stars Experimentation is one of the riskiest gambles in music, particularly in metal music. On one hand, there's the task of catering to the already established fanbase, but then there's either the hunger to expand that fanbase or to explore completely uncharted territory, usually with varying degrees of success. Most of the time, successful experiments have still managed to receive some sort of backlash from the community, going to show that you can't please everyone. Cynic's second album, Traced in Air, is pretty much the epitome of that phrase in the progressive metal world; while being a fantastic follow-up to the groundbreaking prog/jazz/death metal debut Focus, there was still a certain crowd who didn't think it was "metal enough" or more prominently, "long enough." If you were in the "not metal enough" category, then you're really going to be shocked at their newest effort Kindly Bent to Free Us. Then again, judging by the group's EPs following Traced in Air (Re-Traced and Carbon-Based Anatomy), there was a clear indication that the band were heading toward a softer direction. Hell, Traced in Air was already much lighter than Focus. When you get down to it, experimentation is a refreshing change when it's done well; however, this new record (reinventing Cynic's sound yet again) is nothing short of complete garbage.

Kindly Bent to Free Us is quite aptly named, as the entire experience sounds kinder and gentler than the group's previous records. You'll hear 100%-clean vocals from Paul Masvidal, as well as a more layered, textural sound based heavily on jazz phrasing and chord progressions. While the jazz influence was prominent on Focus and Traced in Air, it really becomes the forefront on this record as most of the guitar chords and bass lines are built around a jazz fusion framework, albeit frequently on the calmer side. However, the first song "True Hallucination Speak" is a bit of a false alarm, its guitar intro being quite atonal and suggesting something a bit more frantic. Even the groove it settles into is pretty technical from an electric guitar and bass standpoint, but then once the vocals enter the picture, everything sorta crumbles. First of all, Paul is not a very engaging singer for this album's more-distorted moments, often making the music underwhelming and pretty awkward. Truthfully, adding a few growls or vocoder singing would possibly have benefited these moments pretty nicely, but as is, the singing's not very fitting.

The music, while not offensively bad, seems really directionless; one of the worst things you can say about an album is that it doesn't leave any impression at all, and this album sadly nails it. "The Lion's Roar" has a verse in the beginning that sounds as if it were lifted straight from "Integral Birth" from the previous album, similar rolling drum beat and all. While it doesn't last long, it gives off a recycled feel about it and seems like a bit of a cop-out. Some song sections sound completely out-of-place and don't match with a given tone. The title track opts to build its dynamics up gradually, leading to an intense climax around the middle, when all of a sudden it just comes to a complete halt. The instruments die down, then drop off completely for a sparse guitar and bass segment before randomly bursting back into the distortion again out of nowhere. Why? Was there any purpose? It certainly didn't flow well, given its placement right in the very middle of the track. Perhaps if it was near the end it would have been able to serve more of a purpose to build to another climax, but it comes off as really awkward and unneeded.

The biggest issue with the album is that everything just becomes a giant blur after only a few minutes of listening. Nothing ever stands out or comes off as being engaging, no matter the dynamics. While "Infinite Shapes" has an extended clean intro that seems welcome to break up the monotony, the distorted portions go right back to the same old jazz chord progressions and the same slow pace. Despite the experimentation on this album, as it consists of more clean sections and even more jazz fusion and soft rock elements, I think the boys in Cynic forgot that it's not just the experimentation that defines an album, but what how you execute it as well. On another note, Sean Reinart's drumming is seriously underplayed here. He usually goes between 6/8 and 4/4 time signatures, and oftentimes his drumwork will simply follow a precise stacatto guitar and bass melody or just keep the rhythm section in check as Paul's lead work and vocals adorn the foreground of the music. Considering how talented Reinart is on the drums, this seems like a serious step back in his work with the band. Hell, despite some solos here and there, even Paul Masvidal is really subdued here as well. It's worth noting that a decent chunk of this album bears a strong resemblance to a certain Cynic side project known as Aeon Spoke, which does indeed focus more on the lighter elements of Paul and Sean's musical influences. This just begs the question: why would Cynic go this far in Aeon Spoke's direction when there's already an Aeon Spoke around? It brings the already-tenuous credibility of Cynic's recent sound change to a pile of rubble. This album is just not worth listening to for any reason other than to hear how far a band can fall in such a short time. This isn't a slight dip in quality, it's an avalanche. As the final track "Endlessly Bountiful" slowly crescendos from a soft progressive rock ballad into a beautiful burst of distortion and energy, one can only wish that this musical epiphany had occurred way earlier in the record. As it calms down and ends with a whimper, it's realized that the album ends the same way as it began... being unmemorable.

(Originally posted on Sputnikmusic)

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 Traced In Air by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.13 | 431 ratings

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Traced In Air
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Necrotica

4 stars There are just some bands who absolutely love to cross the boundaries of musical prowess or creativity, whether a record's revolutionary or just plain amazing. Cynic, Death, and Atheist were a bit of a "Big Three" of progressive death back in the early 90's, but why? Why would they be there, other than being early? Many reasons could come up, but those 3 simply had more creativity and talent at the time. Most technical metal bands today rely heavily on overly clean recording techniques and lots (and I mean lots) of sweep picking and shredding. They almost lost that sort of experimental edge of the early days.

The thing is, Cynic's first release, Focus, embodied that aforementioned experimental edge perfectly and struck a balance between the baffling and the rewarding. So many progheads were astounded at the level of technicality and emotion that went into the record, as well as individual prowess. Plus, the other thing that Cynic (along with Atheist) had that most others don't is the extremely high level of jazz fusion put into the album. The record simply did not disappoint, and it brought in newcomers of progressive music, as well as metal, and remains a legend to this day.

Traced in Air is a bit of a successor, but more of spiritual successor than an actual sequel to the original. Released 15+ years after the original, hype was high, but Cynic knew how to cater to (most) fans while bringing in new ones as well. Cynic knew not to make an easy cash-in, especially after 15 years, as fans would become ridiculously enraged at such a sight after so much anticipation. So what did Cynic do for Traced in Air?

They topped the original.

One thing that received mixed opinions was the level of accessibility this album has, and it is indeed more accessible to listen to. However, that doesn't detract from such an experience as this. The instrumentalists are still top-notch, as is their quality. Paul Masvidal's odd robotic vocals have been swapped for better, more regular vocals. The growls are cleaner as well, and drums are as technical as ever. Now think of that, and, on top of that, cleaner production. You basically get a recipe for success.

The influences on this album are more diverse as well. You'll get some King Crimson here and there, a bit of Rush, some Porcupine Tree, and so on. Cynic spreads these influences out and put in their own signature sound, creating something truly unique and never seen before in progressive metal.

Of course then, you'd need a strong opening, right? Well, the beginning is MUCH different from the one seen previously in Veil of Maya. That one bursts out of the gate, while Nunc Fluens offers more of a traditional prog intro, but has unique synth effects and tribal drumming. The track is somewhat mesmerizing and offers an excellent introduction to the album.

The following songs contain a phenomenal amount of quality, as well as new crazy twists and turns. "The Space for This" has such a dreamy intro with the vocals aiding to that effect, before it builds into an epic riff going to the verse. The same structure goes for "King of Those who Know," one of the highlights of the record. It has female-type vocals to begin, and builds up to an amazing verse.

"Evolutionary Sleeper" is unique all its own, and features some of Paul Masvidal's best vocals as it clocks in at 3:34, one of the shortest tracks. More power to it, as the concise feel of the song is very tight in instrumentation and production. The growls are also featured here, as well as in other places. The chorus is quite dreamy, and then a jazzy solo ends the song. Great stuff.

Now's time to talk about individual talents. First of, it seems that Paul Masvidal has improved tenfold on this album, and it shows. The vocals are a huge plus here, especially on "Integral Birth," which has a bit more of an accessible feel to it. Gone are the weird robotic effects, and now semi-normal vocals take place with the assistance of a digitized "octave voice." His guitar solos are now more concise as well, and still very excellent.

Sean Reinart just destroys the drums here, showing his best performance yet. On "The Space for This," his technical drumming permeates the whole ordeal, while never being too overbearing. He has such a unique and fresh drumming style. The other members keep up as well, too, providing a nice pace for Masvidal and Reinart to shine.

Overall, this album is an odd entity, and one that is truly mind-blowing. Any fan of progressive metal/rock should not miss this, and it's taken a lot more as an experience.

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

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 Focus by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.22 | 433 ratings

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Focus
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by HoldsworthIsGod

4 stars Let's talk about Death Metal. Normally the guitars are overdriven beyond belief, and the guitars itself have pointy headstocks. Not here. The guitar shifts from clean passages to distorted ones, and the guitars have NO headstocks at all! The lyrics in death metal are usually about necrophilia, murder, and rape, and sound like they're being sung by Cookie Monster with a sore throat. Sure, there's death growls here, but there's also vocoder-processed robot vocals. You won't hear THAT on a Cannibal Corpse record! And the lyrics are meditative, and New Age-y. And in a genre where fans denounce fans of other genres as "gay" or "homos", there are two openly gay members! The standout track is "Veil of Maya", with its synth textures and Allan Holdsworth-inspired solos. Also, "Uroboric Forms" is a heavier song with influences of Death

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 Kindly Bent To Free Us by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.66 | 136 ratings

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Kindly Bent To Free Us
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars CYNIC puts out exactly what i personally like in a band, namely quality over quantity and absolutely no one can accuse this unique band of flooding the market with throwaway filler. The mystery with CYNIC has always been since releasing their debut album "Focus" and then calling it a day if they would ever put out another bizarre hybrid recording. After 15 years the answer was yes! reappearing with a followup in 2008 with a new sound in with "Traced In Air" which shifted gears a bit but pretty much carried on a lot of what was expected from "Focus" with the unique death metal / jazz / space rock / ambient thing neatly assembled into a nice little package that only this band could create.

Luckily the world would not have to wait another decade and a half for a followup. The band was ready for some serious business and began releasing EPs. With "Re-Traced" we got a taste of CYNIC dropping a huge swath of their metal sound and then with "Carbon-Based Anatomy" where they cemented the toning things down in the metal department by going down an atmospheric post rock and ambient path.

That brings us to their much awaited third album KINDLY BENT TO SAVE US arriving 21 years after the debut and 6 years after their second. Anyone who follows CYNIC should expect the unexpected by now. The band has their influences dipped in so many cocktails that strangeness is guaranteed to emerge in unforeseen ways and ideas evolve as sporadically as their songs shifting from one complex time signature to another with as many tones and styles to match.

KINDLY BENT TO SAVE US may have jettisoned all traces of death metal growls and replaced them with indie rock type vocals but the musical compositions remain as complex if not more so than anything the band has released before. It's too much to grasp on a single listen. This one has taken me a while to appreciate because it is so dense and, well, unique. Of course there is a lot of what came before but on top of the sci-fi and Buddhist inspired lyrics, we get plenty of progressive metal, clean guitars, lots of staccato, complex rhythms that fuse the world of rock and jazz so seamlessly that it deserves some kind of new designated style nomenclature.

Overall, this album is a mixed bag with me. I agree with all the others that this is not as memorable as the first two releases in its scope or intensity but i totally disagree with anyone who writes this off as mere crap. The sophisticated approach on this release is phenomenal. I enjoy every single track musically and the only reason i cannot rate this album higher is because of the vocals of Paul Masvidal which don't have the inspiring effect that the music does. The consistency of the clean style of vocals just seems a bit weak in the mix. I do miss the growls for they added some much needed contrast that matches the music.

If there were to be a huge swath of vocal influences on top of the music maybe like that of bands like Darkology or Hell, then this could have been another full-fledged masterpiece of epic proportions, but that it is not, yet i really enjoy this album a lot despite the disappointment factor and my own desire to micro-manage the project to please myself. Despite it all i am certainly not sorry it was released but i hope they can improve upon this formula in the future.

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 Kindly Bent To Free Us by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.66 | 136 ratings

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Kindly Bent To Free Us
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by FrankPatxi

4 stars Well, the Cynic have come back!! "Kindly Bent To Free Us"(KBFU) follow the previous "Traced in Air" after 6 years. Judging from the final result, the waiting has been well paid, because Paul Masvidal (Vocals, Guitars, Keys, Synth), Sean Malone (Fretless bass, Chapman stick) and Sean Reinert (Drums and Percussion), have performed a very good job. Who knows Cynic knows also they are one of the reference band for the tecnical death metal (together with Death, Atheist, etc.), but during the years the band has explored other aspects and sounds, with the basic style of Cynic always present. With these premises, let's say that KBFU is not like the previous full-lenght; first of all, the growly style for singing has disappeared, so we are quite away from the masterpiece "Focus" (the last year was the 20th anniversary). Maybe this aspect will be not well accepted from someone of the old fans, but is to take in account that in the last releases (The Portal Shape ? EP 2012, Carbon-Based Anatomy ? EP 2010), there's no growl. but as said before, the band is exploring other sounds and musicality. This aspect doesn't means that Cynic are giving a bad album, but rather a different album, as usual from Cynic in each full-lenght release. Speaking more properly of music, there's a lot of different atmospheres and influences, from jazz to fusion till the "new age" in some passages, but the progressive roots are never abandoned and this is the "trademark" of the entire album. The best "episodes" in my opinion are the first track "True Allucination Speak" and the title track (the drum patterns is very nice), just to clarify the ideas. The first part of the album for me, is the best, reminding some 70's prog composition, and the most musical rich part (specially the first 3 songs). The remaining songs are also interesting, as "Moon Heart Sun Head" with 2 atypical guitar solos considering the context, but very interesting for who plays guitar. A special mention goes to Reinert behind the drums, and also to Sean Malone with the Bass Guitar creating a great sound and performance!! I think that as all the great albums, KBFU is an album that need more listenings before to be understood, appreciated. Even if is not a masterpiece like "Focus", KBFU is a modern progressive album that will make happy many progressive music fans. Enjoy!

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 Focus by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.22 | 433 ratings

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Focus
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

5 stars This is an album that is guaranteed to piss off the purists. It's not death metal enough. It's not jazz enough. It's not progresesive enough. Waaa! Get over it. This album has taken me a long time to appreciate and not to come off as some BS elitist but geez. Such complex music doesn't hit you upon first listen or even the tenth. Yes. There exists music that takes multiple listens to fully take in to "get." FOCUS, the debut album by CYNIC is one of those such albums. There are definitely hooks to be had on this album but they will surely rub you the wrong way as they unfold unless you are a fan of a multitude of genres of the musical spectrum.

Let's start with metal. They are indeed a metal band but only in amplification, death metal vocals and thrash metal performance of the chords. The chords themselves are firmly placed in the jazz-fusion branch of progressive rock. In fact dare I say that CYNIC is the Mahavishnu Orchestra of extreme metal? Perhaps so. Electronica. God forbid. What are these funky Floridians thinking for frack's sake? Yes, they use a strange electronic embellishment to enhance the vocals but there is also a sound of electronic music mingled in with the wholeness of this project. Sacrilegious? Perhaps. Satisfying because this band knows no arbitrary boundaries? Fer sure.

CYNIC were simply in their own world. They took their influences and put them together in a way they saw fit at the time. Would I have done things differently? Of course. But I am judging this album because this band simply did things their way in a time when that wasn't very popular to do so. This album has become much more popular over time as many a progressive rock album has since its release. What can I say? They melodies are a brilliant mix of melody, harmony, dissonance, brutality, tenderness, accessibility and avant-garde all jumbled together. Yes, it is easy to find faults with this album at first listen because it doesn't measure up to YOUR personal take on how this fusion should have arisen but did you do anything better? If taken on its own merits from the time it was released it is a musical masterpiece that not only takes many listens to fully comprehend but rewards greatly once those walls of "getting it" have fully been broken down.

Genres are simply nomenclature that someone else created to sort things into digestible arenas but when one realizes that music is a series of spectrums that demand careful assignment and occasionally tagged exceptionalism then it is easier to embrace albums such as FOCUS that don't easily fit into any. Upon first listen I liked this album. Upon quite a few I love it. This is not only a cornerstone in metal music but a brilliant piece of art that works on so many levels once a full comprehension of influences has fully been embraced. I hope you don't let your initial impressions impede you from letting this album grow on you. It is one of those rare pieces of music that can take your breath away after countless listens. Absolutely brilliant.

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 Focus by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.22 | 433 ratings

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Focus
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by javajeff

5 stars This is nothing short of a prog metal masterpiece. The album is perfect and contains elements of prog and jazz infused with a death metal vibe. The musicianship here is astonishing, and dazzling, and the lyrics are delivered as they alternate between clean and growl vocals. You will not find a 20 minute song or a long album from Cynic, and it is just so disappointing when it is over. Any active prog listening should want more. I love all three of their studio albums, and listen to them straight through in my playlist. This album should not be overlooked by any music lover since there is something for everyone. I bought the Original recording remastered version with Extra tracks, and those tracks are worth it. This is a must buy along with their other two.

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 Kindly Bent To Free Us by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.66 | 136 ratings

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Kindly Bent To Free Us
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Daggor

3 stars I think when the buzz started around Cynic's new album, Kindly Bent To Free Us, I was probably the only one in need of introduction. The band released a legendary album in the early 90s, titled Focus, that existed more in a death metal-inspired world of progressive music, which is probably why it flew under my radar for so long. After its beloved debut, Cynic returned in 2008 with Traced In Air, which by all indications, lived up to 15 years of hype. By this measure, at the time that the band settled in to release Kindly Bent To Free Us, the hype was absolutely through the roof.

All good things come to an end though, and as I was being introduced to Cynic on the first single, "The Lion's Roar," the very thing that caught my attention about the song was at the same time, alienating hordes of fans. Namely that, instead of technical death metal that embraced jazz fusion, I was met with jazz fusion embracing, well, itself really. I recognized that, in spite of a more streamlined genre approach, the band was brimming with talented musicians and interesting ideas, and so as older fans dropped the hype bandwagon, I was more than happy to pick it up myself.

There's something of a curse to hype, of course, and certainly an art form entirely unto itself when choosing which song to introduce new material to listeners with, especially when that new material is a stylistic departure. "The Lion's Roar" gave me indications of up-tempo jazz fusion, but as Kindly Bent To Free Us really unfolds, so much more of the release is somber, with post-rock leanings. The closing track, "Endlessly Bountiful", in particular stands almost exclusively on the vocal textures of Paul Masvidal's tastefully overproduced voice.

The band is actually much stronger with its more subtle passages, interlaced throughout the record, than the overt melodies that made "The Lion's Roar" the standout single that it was, and yet even as Cynic showed itself as being, in fact, more talented than what originally attracted me to the album, I still find its style to be one that is very difficult to fully appreciate. There's a lot of melodic recursion throughout the record, and as framing devices, they're absolutely wonderful. However, the juxtaposition of the different styles is difficult for me to wrap my head around. Similarly, there's moments like on "True Hallucination Speak," where the atmosphere of the song feels like it's aiming to be quite profound, except I'm hearing "Pop, pop snap crackle and pop," and now I'm thinking about breakfast cereal.

Kindly Bent To Free Us is tremendously successful at accomplishing Cynic's "loftier" artistic ambitions, and there's no lack of talent or tact, but on the bottom end I find it difficult to access, and lacking in a more simple appeal to accentuate the more intricate and advanced brilliance. While I can appreciate the accomplishments that Cynic achieves, I'm just not enjoying them very much.

3.0 // 5

Originally posted at www.blackwindmetal.com

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 Re-traced by CYNIC album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2010
3.88 | 74 ratings

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Re-traced
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by SteveG

5 stars 'Under every good song is a great one'. That's what an old mentor of mine once told me and he was never more right about something than when he made that statement and Cynic's Re-Traced EP of reworked songs from the 2010 album Traced in Air is the proof. The EP features four songs from TIA and one new composition and is stripped of the bombastic assault found on TIA in that heavy guitars, tech metal drumming and growls are almost completely absent. Paul Masvidal still employs Vocoder effects but they are at a minimum and are only really noticeable on one song.

Starting with TIA's opener The Space For This you are hit immidiately with morse code ryhthms of acoustic and electric drums as well as light stacato guitar ryhthms before Masvidal's ethereal vocal starts it's spell. This time around Tymon (not doing growls for this EP as the band have dispensed with them) helps out Masvidal with spooky waves of percussion like synths and strange space travel synth swirls that sound far from cliched or dated. Indeed, the synths no longer sound like thay belong to a '80's new wave band like the way they did on the Portal album. The future is finally here. Masvidal is one of those lyricists that takes you on an interior journey as the music takes you through the far reaches of space. The song also features a brief bizzare time changing middle section as synths, drums, bass and vocals slow down to a swirling warped speed waltz before resuming the voyage to the beyond.

What's instantely recognizable is the beautiful melody of the song and the mystical lyrics, two things that seemed to get over looked on TIA as everything but the kitchen sink was thrown into the sound mix. Next up is a cover of Evolutionary that is more stripped down in appearence but is actually quite layed with guitars, more staight up rock drumming from Reinert and heavy fretless bass grooves from guest player Robin Zielhorst (Sean Malone was absent for outing but will re-appear on the band's next EP). Evolutionary also displays a great melody, beautiful yearning vocals from Masvidal and is another stunning re-interpretation. King is reshaped with jazz and it's remarkable how sympathetic drummer Sean Reinert is to this material as he has a wonderful sense of swing and really drives the song home. The last of the reshaped tracks, Intergral, is just Masvidal singing with only his acoustic guitar, light synth, organ and guest Amy Corria helping with harmony vocals as accompaniment. This song is the album's low point as it is just a bit too plaintive and the mystical lyrics (about reincarnation?) are lost on me. The final song, Wheels Within Wheels, is a new track that features shuddering bass from Zielhorst, great ryhthm and lead work from Masvidal and Tymon with Reinert back to his old power house technical self. The song could sit easily on 2014's Kindly Bent To Free Us and is an equal to the best songs from that album. Cynic is a band that claims to keep tunes and ideas in their pockets for a long time as they mull over the material. Perhaps this was the beginning of the Kindly Bent To Free Us material. Re-Traced is a bit of tease as it fades out after 25 minutes but it's an excellent opener for the group's next EP, the stellar Carbon Based Anatomy that was released in 2011. It's true, sometimes good songs just get better. As Re-Traced is another short EP by the band, I feel that 4.5 stars is a fair rating. Imagine if they remade the entire TIA album. That would have been 5 stars easily!

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 The Portal Tapes by CYNIC album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2012
3.61 | 44 ratings

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The Portal Tapes
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by SteveG

3 stars Prog for the unwashed masses? With so little time actually working under the band name Cynic, it's amazing that guitarist Paul Masidal and drummer Sean Reinert (the core duo that hold together the working collective known as Cynic) have such a wealth of material to offer their fans. This time it's the demos of the Portal project that the two made in colaboration with former Cynic guitarist Jason Gobel and newcomers Chris Kringle on bass and female singer/keyboard player Aruna Abrams. Recorded roughly about 1 year after Cynic released the death metal/jazz fusion album Focus in 1993, this musical outing is far from extreme metal and leans heavily toward an experimental/keyboard prog sound. With Masvidal continuing in his role as mystical lyricist and Aruna supplying chime like swirling keyboard textures, the music, mostly executed at a mid tempo, often takes on a prog/new age sound hybrid that would be more at home after playing a later era Peter Gabriel or Soul Cages era Sting album. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, we can't listen to prog metal all the time, I'm only trying to give a musical point of reference. The album starts off quite strong with the afore mentioned swirling keyboards, acoustic and electric drums, clean guitar textures and a heavy fretless bass groove. Abrams has a clear pleasent voice but she's not going to shatter any wine glasses when she sings. Abrams is usually the lead vocalist with Masvidal supplying low multi tracked and echoed backing vocals that also swirl around the sound stage and is quite an aural treat. Unfortunately, the spell wears off by the fourth track and the band have no new tricks to present to the audience Even though the fifth and eigth tracks are also stellar, you just feel like your hanging on at that point, waiting for the forgetable ninth and the tenth final track to pass by quickly so that the album finally ends.That such a young band could produce such a reserved focused work as this, especially after two were members of the seminal Florida extreme metal band Death speaks volumes for their musical chops and dedication to the project. The remarkable art work by the late Robert Venosa adorns this album as well as all other Cynic albums and is still such a large part of the listening experience. The man's work is along the lines of H.R. Giger but with a spiritual bent. This is a hard album to call for as I stated, it really belongs on a playlist along side Peter Gabriel. The question is, would you bump a Peter Gabriel disc out of the way in order to play the Portal disc first? I think not. 2.5 stars for the music and great sound from the demos plus Venosa's great art work. Prog for the unwashed masses? Definately not.

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